Your Guide to Mixed Reality Headsets Available in the U.S.

Johnny Reid
Sep 28, 2023

Few mixed reality headsets have made it to market and succeeded. The most successful in the U.S. have been Microsoft's HoloLens 2, the Magic Leap 1, and the Varjo XR-3. Here's a how they line up.

What is the best Mixed Reality Headset?

Background on Mixed Reality Headsets

Countless have fallen before launch, several have flopped in the market, but a select few mixed reality headsets have made it to market and succeeded. Currently available and in use in the U.S. are the HoloLens 2, Magic Leap 1, and Varjo XR-3. We’ve broken down their features for you.

Mixed reality headset specs comparison

The HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 1 use optical see-through displays, whereas the Varjo XR-3 employs video-see through display; instead of actually seeing your surroundings through glass, the Varjo XR-3 is a closed headset that uses frontal cameras to capture real-time video of your physical space. This also makes the headset VR compatible.

This difference alone makes for very different enterprise use cases between the Varjo XR-3 and its competitors. The closed display allows for higher resolution, photo-realistic imagery, and a larger field of view, making this headset more compatible with design and engineering tasks where detailed visualization is required. These qualities also make it more compatible with certain educational and clinical applications.

Its display method gives it the highest resolution and fastest refresh rate in its class, something that hasn’t been accomplished yet on headsets with optical see-through display methods, which have longer lag times. 5G will have a significant impact on the latency of these devices, allowing the rest to catch up with the Varjo headset.

The Varjo XR-3 is particularly well suited for academic, clinical, and commercial research because it has some of the fastest, most accurate eye-tracking technology available--providing deep insights into human behavior and emotion.

On the other hand, the HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 1 lend themselves more to industrial mixed reality use cases where detailed visualization is less important, and interacting with your surroundings is more important. These headsets lend themselves to mixed reality enterprise training applications because they keep you grounded in your physical environment while providing information and visual assistance with augmented objects while you work.

The HoloLens 2 has also been adapted by Trimble for easier use in construction and industrial sites by attaching to hardhats.

These optical see-through mixed reality displays are connected to the future of consumer-facing mixed reality glasses, for which the video-see through headsets are not suitable. This connection to consumer-facing glasses makes for a seamless transition to them when they launch. 

The Varjo XR-3 and the Magic Leap 1 both require tethers to run, though the Magic Leap 1 can run off of a pocket computer for increased mobility. The HoloLens 2 does not require a tether--a major selling point.

In terms of sales, the HoloLens 2 is absolutely crushing the competition. Magic Leap is estimated to have sold around 6,000 headsets, and though we don’t have an estimate on the Varjo XR-3, it’s applications are more limited than its competitors. It’s unclear just how many HoloLenses have sold, but we know Microsoft sold at least 100,000 headsets to the U.S. military. We also know it is the only headset that can be adapted for use in industrial and construction sites.

We develop primarily on Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 because it is so widely used and most closely compatible with future mixed reality for consumer applications.

Lenovo has a new XR headset launching soon. The all new ThinkReality VRX features full color, high resolution pass through capabilities for mixed reality along with virtual reality capabilities. It is designed to be an end-to-end enterprise solution that will target the "Enterprise Metaverse". Pricing has yet to be released.

Best Mixed Reality Headset Overview By Device

Microsoft's HoloLens 2

A frontrunner in the mixed reality space, the HoloLens 2 offers optical see-through displays, making it ideal for industrial applications where interaction with the surroundings is crucial. Its adaptability, even in construction sites with hardhats, makes it a top choice.

Varjo XR-3

This headset stands out with its video-see-through display, offering high resolution and a fast refresh rate. Its eye-tracking technology provides deep insights, making it suitable for academic and clinical research.

Meta Quest 3

A new contender, the Meta Quest 3, promises enhanced immersion and improved hand tracking. Its wireless design and vast content library make it a strong competitor in the mixed reality arena.

Apple Vision Pro

Scheduled for a 2024 release, the Apple Vision Pro is already generating buzz. While details are still under wraps, expectations are high given Apple's track record in marrying design with functionality.

Magic Leap 2

Building on its predecessor's foundation, the Magic Leap 2 aims to offer a more refined mixed reality experience. With improved field of view and enhanced spatial computing capabilities, it's set to make waves in the industry.

Meta Quest Pro

The Meta Quest Pro is designed for professional applications, offering high-resolution visuals and seamless integration with various software tools. Its ergonomic design ensures comfort during extended use.

Lenovo ThinkReality VRX

A soon-to-be-released contender, the ThinkReality VRX boasts high-resolution pass-through capabilities, targeting the "Enterprise Metaverse."

In conclusion, the mixed reality landscape is rapidly evolving, with each headset bringing its unique strengths. Whether you're looking for detailed visualization, immersive experiences, or enterprise solutions, there's a mixed reality headset tailored for your needs.